Victoria Stephens feeds her three-month-old baby, Nathan. He sat on his mom’s lap and stared at the phone screen with his big brown eyes. He was content – at least for a few minutes.
“He’s an attention-hogger,” Stephens said. “We’re learning how to be independent so mom can get schoolwork done.”
Stephens is a college student and a first-time mom. She found out she was pregnant early last year, around the same time the coronavirus was first confirmed in Lubbock in March.
She said her pregnancy was an emotional, anxious time, feelings amplified by the pandemic. Stephens stayed home and often felt lonely, but she said that distancing from the world brought her closer to her partner. They had deep conversations about how they would raise their son and what they wanted for his future.
Still, there were some disappointments.
“I always imagined having a big baby shower with all of my family, the decorations, the pictures,” Stephens said. “And everything kept just not happening.”
Stephens is not alone in her mixed emotions as a new mom navigating a pandemic. Almost a year in, some new mothers have experienced pregnancy, labor and delivering a newborn all under unusual circumstances. But, of course, life goes on.
In The Hospital
Dr. Bennet Henderson is an obstetrician and gynecologist with Covenant Health. She said nerves have kicked in early for expecting moms.
“A delivery is a lot more difficult to plan for than a dream wedding,” Henderson said. “There are a lot more complications and unknowns that can come up.”
Henderson said labor and delivery isn’t too different right now, as long as the mom tests negative for COVID a few days before giving birth. If a mom is positive for COVID or wasn’t able to be tested before going into labor, there are some additional rules.
“The biggest change is going to be our visitor restrictions,” Henderson said.
Labor and delivery patients at Covenant Children’s are allowed one support person and a doula, if they have one. Restrictions are similar across the country. Henderson says this has led to a more intimate experience for a lot of families.
“Moms a lot of times feel that obligation to share that time with everybody and they don’t always want to,” Henderson said. “So it’s been a way to kind of weed out having to host people in a really vulnerable time.”
Ashley Blythe, a local doula and birth photographer, said hospital restrictions have made her job a bit more challenging.
Blythe explained that doulas serve as an advocate for a mother. They support expecting moms physically and emotionally, but also make sure they’re informed about the many options leading up to delivery. Hospital COVID policies have changed often the past year, which has made that last part of her job frustrating at times.
Many of the moms Blythe has worked with in the past year have expressed feeling as if they have limited control of their situation. Additional stress and anxiety from the pandemic has not helped that.
Hospital COVID-19 procedures led to a different labor and delivery experience than what she expected, but Victoria Stephens said it all happened quickly and with little fuss. A new challenge came when the family of three returned home. Stephens said she has stuck close to their one-bedroom apartment since bringing home Baby Nathan.
“I just want to go outside and not worry about my son getting sick,” Stephens said.
Her boyfriend works 12-hour shifts — Stephens spends her time in their one-bedroom apartment. But even with her baby there, it can get lonely.
“Especially when he can’t talk,” she said. “He’s just starting to make noises and stuff.”
Breonne Luna had her second child in August, a little girl named Laney. She knew what to expect in labor and delivery. But that didn’t stop questions from swirling around her head.
“The first time was more scary because of the unknown of having a kid,” Luna said. “The second time was more scary because of the unknown of the world.”
Those questions continued after her daughter arrived. She wonders when her kids will see unmasked faces in crowds.
Luna is a nurse and was part of the first group eligible for the new vaccine and got the shot. That’s eased at least some new mom anxiety.
Have a news tip? Email Sarah Self-Walbrick at email@example.com. Follow her reporting on Twitter @SarahFromTTUPM.